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Finding a Property

Finding the right home to buy can take patience and lots of leg-work. There are a number of ways to find or create the home you want and a number of factors to consider along the way.

Licensing

Real estate salespersons and brokerages must be registered with the Saskatchewan Real Estate Commission. The Commission is responsible for licensing, setting educational requirements and dealing with disciplinary matters. All money received in relation to real estate transactions must be held in a trust account and properly handled.

You can confirm that an individual or brokerage is licensed/registered online.

Using a Real Estate Agent

A real estate agent can show buyers suitable listed properties available in their price range. Generally speaking, the services of a real estate agent are free to the buyer - real estate fees are typically paid by the seller on a commission basis. The commission is usually a percentage of the sale price and will be set out in the contract the seller and the real estate agent enter into.

In some instances buyers may also enter into a contract with a real estate agent for certain services related to purchasing a new home. Where there is no contract between a buyer and a real estate agent, buyers are free to change agents, purchase property without an agent, decide not to purchase altogether or to purchase a property listed privately.

Private Sales

Some properties are listed for sale directly by the owner. When there is no real estate agent involved, the seller is responsible for advertising the sale and arranging showings of the property. While interested buyers must present the seller with an Offer to Purchase, some sellers may provide a blank form or template. It is important to take steps to ensure that all legal aspects of the transaction are properly handled when buying privately. While lawyers typically prepare the legal documents for mortgages and land title transfers, there may be additional fees if a lawyer is also asked to do work that a real estate agent would do if involved in the sale.

Inspecting the Property – Buyer Beware

Buyers have a responsibility to inspect the property and the condition it is in. A seller does not need to point out defects that the buyer could see for themselves. Things like stains on carpets, dents in walls and missing shingles would likely fall into this category, unless the seller has taken steps to conceal them.

On the other hand, sellers are required to tell buyers about any defects the seller knows about that could not be discovered by a reasonable inspection of the property. Things like past problems with water in the basement, windows that leak when it rains or faulty plumbing would likely be included in this category if the seller knows about the issue.

Buyers may be given a property disclosure statement that the seller has completed outlining their knowledge about any problems with the home. If a property disclosure statement is not provided buyers can ask the sellers to complete one. These have the advantage of creating a written record about what was disclosed and what was not. However, sellers are only required to answer these questions to the best of their knowledge.

In addition to disclosing defects that a buyer cannot see for themselves, sellers and their real estate agents must answer honestly if asked about the home. However, since most agreements for sale include a statement that the property is purchased "as is," it is a good idea to get any assurances in writing.

If a seller fails to disclose a defect they knew about, or lies to the buyer when asked about it, the buyer may be able to sue the seller for any damages that result. For example, the buyer may be able to sue for the cost of repairing the defect that should have been disclosed.

Some of the things to check are...

  • Is the property worth the asking price?
  • What are the yearly taxes, utility and heating costs?
  • Are the foundation and building structure sound?
  • Are there any problems with the water and sewer systems?
  • Do the furnace and water heater work?
  • Is the insulation adequate?

Buyers who do not know much about houses and who want an informed, objective opinion about the property should contact someone they know and trust who knows about property. Commercial inspection services are also available. Some people will make an offer on a house conditional on obtaining a favourable building inspection.

Buyers should also be aware of the zoning of the property and surrounding area. If a house is in a mixed residential/commercial area, it may be zoned for commercial use. This would allow redevelopment of the property next door as a business or apartments. In addition, if the house has a rental suite, the buyer will want to make sure that the zoning allows the unit to be rented and that the unit conforms to local bylaws.

Buying a Home from a Non-Resident

A person should be careful when buying property in Canada from a person who does not live in Canada. When a person who lives outside Canada sells property located in Canada, they may need to pay a tax on all or part of the purchase price. If the buyer pays the full purchase price to the seller without regard to potential tax liabilities, and the seller does not pay the taxes owing, the buyer may be required to pay a portion of the taxes owing.

Buyers are required to make reasonable inquiries as to whether the seller is a non-resident of Canada. If the seller is a non-resident, additional precautions may be required, including a holdback of some of the purchase price. A lawyer can help ensure that your interests are protected.

The Purchase of Farmland or Other Non-Residential Property

Each type of purchase involves its own unique considerations. If considering the purchase of farmland, acreages, commercial, recreational or rental property, there may be additional things to find out about the property before making an offer to purchase.

Buyers should seek advice from a real estate agent or a lawyer to ensure that all the relevant factors are adequately considered.

Planning to Build a New Home or Major Renovations to Existing Properties

When looking to purchase land on which to build a home, have the land inspected to ensure that it is suitable for the type of construction planned. Whether considering new construction or major renovations, it is important to find out if there are any municipal bylaws that may limit building plans. Whether the buyer will be doing all or part of the work or using contractors, it is important to seek legal advice before signing contracts for materials or services. A lawyer assists in drafting contracts that best meet the buyer's needs and can advise about the best ways of financing the project. The lawyer may also assist in ensuring that the work done is permitted and meets building code requirements and zoning bylaws.

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PLEA gratefully acknowledges our primary core funder the Law Foundation of Saskatchewan for their continuing and generous support of our organization.